A Letter To Our Audience

Tuesday, September 29th 2020

Decibel is changing. For the past three years, we at Austin PBS have thought of Decibel as an experiment, a way to try different methods of storytelling and different engagement strategies. Now, we are moving beyond the experiment and becoming a newsroom driven by a purpose.

Our new purpose is centered around community journalism. In a traditional newsroom, story ideas are often first generated by journalists or editors. Then, those same journalists or editors go out into communities to report stories. Journalists often only enter a community when something newsworthy has happened, then leave as quickly as they arrived. Often the listening happens after the story has been decided. We are instead vowing to listen first.

I am the daughter of Dominican immigrants. Growing up in Grand Prairie, Texas I didn’t often see faces that looked like mine. When you don’t see people that look like you, you look for affirmation in books, newspapers, magazines, movies and television that you matter. I rarely got that affirmation.

I came into journalism with the weight of that experience on my shoulders. I became a journalist because I believe we have the unique opportunity to give people the space to be heard. This opportunity is also a great responsibility. We hold tremendous power in deciding which voices to amplify and which stories to share.

My story is only one of the countless others that exist in our country. I can’t begin to understand the complexities of being from communities I don’t belong to. That’s why as journalists we should do our work from a place of humility. We should admit to ourselves not only what we don’t know but also what we can’t learn from a single interview, one story, or even years of reporting. If we do that, we might be able to create a space for people to tell their own stories. We might be able to move beyond stereotypical, one-dimensional coverage of underrepresented communities. I hope that by turning Decibel into a community journalism project we can achieve that goal.

We think it’s important to cover underrepresented communities in Central Texas. But more importantly, we believe those communities should have a say in how we represent them. We want to create a space for people to be their authentic selves. We believe genuine, thoughtful storytelling can do this. But we can’t do this work alone. We view our work as a partnership with the community. That’s why we promise to be transparent about what we do and to give communities the opportunity to give us feedback and hold us accountable.

In the next few weeks, we plan to share more about what this looks like and how this will be reflected in our stories and on our website. We ask for grace as we go through this period of transition. You’ll start seeing changes on our website and in our stories, but these changes will take time. We know we won’t be perfect as we strive to work under this new mission, but we promise to always be open to your feedback. Reach out to us. Email us at news@klru.org. Tell us what you think. We are here to serve you.

Samantha Guzman
Executive Editor, Decibel

headshot photo of Samantha Guzman

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